Rocky
Caravelli is the Treatment Facilitator and House Manager for the Dream
House, a drug addiction detox center in Mexico. In this interview we
talk about the powerful sacred plant iboga, the process of curing
lifelong substance addiction, the usefulness of dreams in spiritual
healing, and the spirit of iboga who watches over the Dream House.

 

TG: Hello, Rocky, thanks for talking with me. Tell me how you came to create the Dream House. Why did you choose to use
ibogaine as a detox therapy? What type of preparation was required to establish
the center? What staff do you have running the facility?

 

RC: Hi Tristan. The center came from the inspiration of my
own treatment in 2003. After 25 years of addiction I just couldn't find a way
out. I learned from Eric Taub (www.ibeginagain.org)
that there was a west coast clinic in Tijuana
called the Ibogaine Association. My ex-girlfriend Colleen and I had been using
hard drugs non-stop for a year and couldn't get away from it. It took 10 months
for us to get it together but we made it to the clinic. In a matter of 12 hours
it was over—our addictions to methadone, heroin, and meth-amphetamine. I was
physically spent but knew right away this was something big for the community
stuck in addiction.

I made a decision to go back to Tijuana three weeks later and volunteer
there. I ended up staying almost a year and worked with more than 70 people. I
got to see many things both good and bad and asked myself: what could make this
a smoother treatment? I couldn't and still can't believe how well ibogaine
works with opiate addiction, it just stops the kick. I knew soon
this would be accepted by the western world and seen as an option for some
people who have been caught in the never ending-cycle of opiate and narcotic
addiction. All I wanted was a window, a chance to start fresh, not a cure, just
a chance to get my life back. What happened for me was that I got something
completely unexpected: I found out that I needed to have a proper relationship
with the spirit of iboga by working with it and for it—not only for other
people but for myself.

After two years of doing work in the underground, I got to see
even more of what could make this treatment work more smoothly. People needed
more time so they could get to feeling strong again, and a better environment
was needed in which to do the work. It's hard to do treatments in the apartments
of people where they've been using for months. It's also hard to bring people
you just met into your home or to some other supporter's house. There is not
enough medical support if something goes sideways and it's illegal to top it
off. These are not the best of conditions to work in and I felt disrespectful
to the spirit of the plant.

During these two years, I was in Portland going to Paul Levy's dream group
called Awaken in the Dream. We had a good dream group. We went to work
on dreaming up this treatment center and three members of the group came down
with me to Mexico.
We went out of the country to a place we had never been, not speaking the
language, not understanding how anything works, not having any money, we just
went with it. I had a good source for the medicine, a trustworthy source, and
some emotional support from other providers, and I borrowed $10,000 to get this
thing moving. Somehow we were guided to a very special location on the ocean,
with warm salt water and a beautiful tropical landscape. Sayulita was our
first home and eventually we moved three kilometers north to San Francisco/ San Pancho, where there is a
hospital with emergency services available 24 hours.

It was of primary importance to find the right doctor to
work with us. We needed to meet someone who understood what we were trying to
do and who would be open to working with sacred plant medicines. I walked into
the office of Dr. Jose Luis Chavez and showed him the documentary Ibogaine:
Rite of Passage
, with Spanish subtitles. We sat and watched the film
together and he recognized me in the film. When it was over I asked,
"Tratameinto de ibogaina en Sayulita por favor, y tu es mi doctor?"
He looked at me and said, "OK." Jose had just moved to Sayulita, had
a small private practice and a little family. I'm so happy to have made a
match with him, he really is my brother in medicine.

In the beginning I was amazed that anyone wanted to come
here and do this treatment. I'm still amazed. It's a real pilgrimage to make
the commitment and come to this work with faith and openness, to go deep inside.
I didn't even have a website yet but my partner, Eric Taub, brought in people
through his site. It took several moves to get a stable house to work in but it
was still better than anything I had done before. After about a year we found
this brand new house out in a field away from downtown and started
dreaming it up again. Soon a friend/supporter who had done ibogaine a few years
ago for alcohol addiction showed up in the picture looking for a good
investment property. By December of 2007 we'd moved into the Dream House.
It was 90% finished and we have been continuing to finish the remaining 10%. It
feels like all we really have had to do is to keep working at it, the path has
been cleared. It's been a lot of work to bring this into form, but we're so
happy with what's happened. We have a real comfortable treatment house, very
grounded, with enough space for three people to come each week and now we have
an extra transitional integration house in Sayulita where people stay their
second week, to get strong and feel really good. Both towns, Sayulita and San
Pancho, have their own special and distinct charm. It really feels perfect.

After the first year, the staff from Portland
returned to the States and I began the second season in October with my
girlfriend, Mary Ditton, and a core group of people who reside here in
Mexico. Mary is
a body-worker and certified ayurvedic practitioner. Two of the crew
from Portland, Scott Kloos and
Marijke Barker, have returned for short stints this season and it's
been great
to have this revolving staff start to emerge. Scott Kloos is a teacher
at the Elderberry School of Medicine and has his own herbal medicine
company doing
extractions and tinctures of the Pacific Northwest plants. Marijke is a
body-worker, an artist in the kitchen, and has a very intuitive
relation to the
iboga spirit. We have several initiates from the local community who
have gone
through our process and have worked on their own substance abuse
healing and
are now working with us preparing meals, taking people out into town or
the beach,
doing pickups at the airport. It's grown all on its own and we're
really happy
with it. We have had so much satisfaction from working and making
ibogaine
available to local people in the community. This is something we can
give back
to Mexico.
We are the visitors and part of the problem is that the United States
appetite for drugs has begun to really affect the local community, who
deserve
the same opportunity to find a way out.

Dr. Chavez practices medicine like the old time doctors who
give a really thorough physical and psychological evaluation—very personal, no
'hurry up and get it over with' type of attitude. Together we have worked out
protocols to help to address each person's individual needs for a full
treatment of body, mind and spirit. We have a therapist in town who does
integration sessions with everyone who comes through and we have a massage
therapist working with us. It's taken a while to get all the paperwork together
for our licensing; a few trips to Mexico
City and a lot of strange hang ups, but we're out in
the open finally. We are accepted by the community. We make sure to give two
treatments a month to people here with no money. We are grateful to be accepted
and to be able to operate here.


Please explain to me about the process of how you give
clients treatment, as far as the atmosphere of the place itself, the steps that
you take them through, how you try to resolve the various issues that people
have, etc. Why is ibogaine an effective medicine? What is the advantage of
using a natural detox method such as a plant extract like ibogaine, versus
prescription detox drugs like methadone which are used in traditional heroin
detox centers? What kind of addictions can ibogaine treatment help with?

 

Well, we have learned a lot about working with this
medicine and have grown in intuition and clarity for what protocols to use.
Everything is per individual. Everyone is unique in their needs. Sometimes we
have to go slow, using many small treatments. Sometimes we need to really push
through boundaries or blockages and address withdrawal symptoms. We see people
with so many different situations. Hard core addiction to heroin and stimulants
like meth-amphetamine require that we provide a strong support in pre-treatment
and many additional boosters. Treatment for methadone can go on for days or
weeks sometimes. We receive people with emotional issues due to sexual abuse,
depression, and, in many cases, just the desire to reclaim their lost sense of
self and being alive. Whether people come to us for addiction to substances or for
psycho-spiritual development, the truth is that all of what needs to be
addressed stems from a spiritual base, and that is why the treatment itself is
just the beginning of the process. It takes time for people to process and
integrate their session. Sometimes it takes months to pass in order for people
to really understand and look back to see what's been changing from the inside
out.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, a shift of a few
degrees of change occurs and the path begins. The ibogaine is territorial. It
seems to remove other plant spirits which may be residing in the body. All
drugs are plant spirits. Opium /Heroin is a famous, helpful plant spirit. It can
help to stop physical and emotional pain, but it is possessive. It demands a
commitment and can eventually demand that a person serves only that
spirit. It's costly to lose yourself to it. Coca/Cocaine is a powerful plant
spirit. It can serve, but it too is moody and possessive and after years of use
it won't let go without a fight. All the substances we treat are powerful plant
spirits in their own right. Ibogaine seems to be a higher frequency, the plant
has its own nature which is particularly good at bringing things to an end and
bringing things into newness. This is not the common effect: most plants do one
thing or the other. Ibogaine works on a level of the mind associated with
desire, where craving, gratification, and pleasure exist. Ibogaine also works
on memory. I believe that this memory is in the body, in the unconscious. It is
stored as energy in the cells, from this life and past lives. The ibogaine
moves through the body and rewrites the script on these imbedded cells, giving
the cell a new space which is clear of old energetic implants from both physical
and emotional energy.

Other pharmaceutical treatments for addiction like
methadone, subutex and naltraxon only seem to contribute to the already
imprinted addiction. That is because their nature has been removed. These
substances have no plant spirit, so when we treat people wanting to get off of
these substances we have to use a specific protocol because ibogaine has more
of a challenge dealing with these tremendously sticky synthetic imprints.
Ibogaine has less work to do when dealing with heroin or morphine, which are
not synthetic. Ibogaine has a presiding deity. There are scientists who want to
remove this aspect of ibogaine's "side effects" such as
dreaming, throwing up, ataxia etc. It doesn't surprise me at all that someone
would want to get rid of the visionary aspect of ibogaine, to wash out those
dreams and make it a "stable" substance so it can be packaged and
taken to the public for mass consumption… But personally I don't have a
lot of faith in this practice of removing the nature of plants any
more. Besides, you miss the opportunity to really heal the core of the
problem naturally, not just fix the leak. It's the same story everywhere with
humans: we forget how perfect nature is.

The healing happens not in days but minutes after ingestion
of the ibogaine. One hour after we begin there is a gentle introduction to
the medicine so people feel like they have time to relax and get to know what's
coming. They feel a sense of the personality of ibogaine. We work with the
body's needs. Everyone has a different tolerance and it's important to monitor
this sensitivity. We want people to be able to feel safe and be able to go as
far as they need to. A real addict's life is relentless and disappointing; they
believe that this will never stop; that countless attempts to try something to
break the cycle will fail, over and over. These are the people I look for. They
are ready to step out, but they are fragile because they can't take another
failure, and it feels dangerous to them to take the risk. The experience doing
the underground treatments was what really motivated me into creating the Dream
House. To be in a place where we can offer just a little time and support, away
from the reminders of that world, allow for the medicine do its job—it's so
much better. We can't take anything away without replacing it with something or
returning something. It's just polite to treat the body and the mind and spirit
this way. It's the beginning of self compassion.

The most important factor of really knowing what's going on
with someone seeking treatment is their honesty. We have a lengthy application
process. If they're willing to try something as radical as ibogaine, they'll
understand that we have to be thorough. Because even though we're going to be
agents for their healing, they have to be strong enough to do a lot of work
independently of our support. The idea here is that people own their own
healing. It's between them and the medicine. We make the space for people to
follow through with their own decisions. We don't carry people, we just hold
the space and tend to their needs. The key relationship is between the ibogaine
and the person seeking treatment. We are not to disturb this. It may be very
uneventful or very expansive in the expression but it is really about what is
happening between the person and the medicine. There are times people feel
disappointed by not seeing images or having meaningful discussions with spirit
but it doesn't really matter, everyone gets what they need. I myself
experienced only a few visions in my first treatment and it was the slingshot
into a new paradigm of life!

We try to have some kind of schedule, some kind of
structure. But if varies. We have people arrive on Monday, with Tuesday as the
day for preparation and intake, and treatment beginning on Wednesday night. But
if someone isn't addicted and only has five days for personal development, we
bump it to Tuesday. Something can and does come up all the time. If my doctor
calls for more tests, we wait. If someone is really stressed out, we have to
wait or begin right away. If it's stimulants or even alcohol, you have to do a
day with a small dose and wait two days to administer a flood treatment. These
things are all about what someone's needs are. In the end, the medicine itself
tells you how it's to be administered, as long as you're observing the body and
feelings of the person. We try to remember that it's not on our time. We are
working for the spirit who does the healing.

One thing that has helped a lot for opiate detox is giving
people morphine for a couple of days—as much as is necessary to be comfortable.
It's about letting the body rest, to get good nutrition and acclimate in
preparation for the treatment. We help people with the constipation that is
characteristic with opiates so the treatment can be smoother because the body
is not blocked. I can't ask anyone to give something up without replacing it
with something. I tried this for years: giving up drugs with nothing to replace
it, and it is miserable. Ibogaine simply trades, one spirit for another. It
takes care of the hole that would normally be left behind by dropping something
that's actually been in place for years.


Your website says that iboga puts people into an
"awakened dream state." Can you describe what people experience in
this type of state, and how they appear to the outside world? Would you say
that during the ibogaine they enter into a trance state? How is this useful for
people as a part of the overall treatment?

 

Ibogaine is an oneirophrenic, a dream creator, and it
works in the subconscious, unconscious and conscious mind—a bit like the three
are talking together at the same time in the energy body. Not everyone dreams
like this. Some don't get a chance to dream at all, but the medicine is
doing its work. This is a root medicine, it expresses itself like a root, very
grounded both emotionally and physically. During the treatment it's normally not
possible to get up without help, you feel gravity a lot. At the onset you often
feel as if you are being pulled to the earth and spinning, as if you could feel
what its like to be attached to the inside of the planet, kind of a bad drunk
feeling for a few moments. People throw up from this sometimes. Ibogaine is not
a party drug, it can become very uncomfortable.

Once the medicine gets distributed in the body you begin to
see images and people—mostly family members, Africans, shamans and ancestors.
This has so many variables but there are
many similarities. We use traditional Bwiti music from ceremonies in Gabon. The
music helps to keep things moving along in the dreams—it's like going through
different chapters. After a couple of hours the lessons and teaching begin, and
physical body healing is performed sometimes in actual “hands on” visions by
spirits. It's obvious that there is a presence. Sometimes conversation
takes place; a lot about language and communication comes up. Then there are
sometimes dreams with meaningless images and no real substance. Sometimes
people travel to different countries of this world and other worlds. Computer
technology sometimes comes in to show our reflection in the new world we live
in. It really is up to the medicine what's revealed, and it takes months to
interpret. A lot of animals come to people and a lot of information about early
civilization. I asked once, "Why do you care about us humans, what's the
point of you caring for us?" They showed me a Chinese sweat shop with
hundreds of women working simultaneously, so busy working and creating. It's
like we humans are cute—like hamsters. When I was a child I watched hamsters
run around storing food and humping each other, I just loved them. It's the
same kind of love for life and living.

Some people get to return to the exact moment in which they
became fixed on a goal or idea. One woman saw herself picking strawberries with
her family when she was ten years old. She wanted to pick more strawberries
than anyone else. This became her motto for 40 years—I'm gonna do more and
therefore I will be seen/loved. It seems like simple stuff, but so much
attachment is being formed in these childhood experiences. She understood that
she had been picking strawberries on her job in real estate, in her
relationships, in just about everything. A life of strawberry picking.

As for an "awakened dream state," it's no
different from the dream that we live in waking life. The dream group I
attended with Paul Levy was all about recognizing and becoming aware of how we
dream things up in waking life, that this too is just a dream and can open
up to any opportunity if that state of being awake can pop in. It's no fun
trying to stay awake all the time. I love being unconscious in the mental state
and taken over by the mind. I also love to wake up in the moment and see where
I am. The ibogaine is pretty much the same thing. It helps people to wake up
and see that we have been asleep, sometimes for years or all of our life. It
can be a shock, it can be overwhelming. It's definitely not for everyone.


From what you’ve said it seems that there is a strong spiritual
component of the iboga healing, the plant helps a person see their inner self
and helps them realize in an insightful way that they don't need to satisfy
their urges in an unhealthy way like substance addiction. According to your
website, "Ibogaine therapy is not a quick fix. It is a pathway to a deeper
sense of self; an opportunity to establish a new way of being. You are
essentially being reborn and the more time your new sense of self has to
stabilize, the greater the potential for a full, long-lasting recovery."
How would you describe the emotional, non-physical aspect of your treatment? Is
it accurate to say that there is a possibility for transformative spiritual
experience that is an innate property of the iboga plant? If so, how does this
transformation play out in peoples' lives after the ibogaine treatment?

 

We call this the art of living and pathway to self
compassion, joy, and inspiration. The primary goal is to develop a positive
relationship to the self. Now this is in the beginning weeks and months after
treatment and needs to be a conscious act of development, or nothing will
really sink in. The spirit offers clarity and guidance for months, if allowed,
and if you listen to the inner voice (the one that had been garbled by the
chatter of the busy mind) then the guidance can flow. It's still such a long
path with many new hurdles to keep jumping over. This work doesn't ever really
stop, it just changes from the old into something new, but the value of having
a new path to follow or find is so inspirational, it signifies that we can grow
and change, and that's invaluable, to believe we can change, especially after
being trapped for so many years. This is true for everyone, not just addicts,
it's a reality that we all share. There's no such thing as a magic cure, it's
about inspiration and an opportunity to switch lanes. I've seen this happen so
much for people—some of the best moments of my life have been talking with
people a year after their treatment and seeing where they have gone with it.


On your website you claim that iboga can actually
reconfigure the brain's neuro-receptor pathways and heal neurological damage
from the long-term abuse of drugs that alter those receptor sites, such as
cocaine. Can you explain to me how this works physiologically?

 

One part of the healing is that the neuro net in the
brain—the pathway of unconscious thought, the freeway of daily patterns,
reaction and thought—is paved over or broken by running the amperage of
ibogaine through it. It's a type of energetic amperage therapy that literally
breaks this imprinted map in the brain. People sometimes describe feeling like
they don't know who they are for a period. For just a brief moment, they've
basically done a reboot in the mind. The neuro pathways are neutralized and
they've got to take the windy road of thought for a while. It's actually amazing
to experience quiet in the mind of an addict after being just bombarded by
thought for years—the thought process that drives someone to get up, to go score
dope, to get money to go score, on and on. It's just relentless, fears upon
fears… of being caught, of running out of dope, being left with no home, no
family. There is a kind of PTSD of addiction from years of fearful thoughts and
worry. Ibogaine helps heal this trauma. I don't really have words other than
this to describe what happens. I'm not a scientist but I understand ibogaine
from experience and observation. Probably the foremost scientific expert on
ibogaine is Ken Alper at New York
University. He's the guy
to interview for the science of the medicine.


With the effectiveness of this new type of therapy
and the relative safety of iboga treatment as compared to something like
methadone treatment, there must be lots of people who are eager to try
ibogaine. How do you screen potential clients?

 

The fact is people who have used drugs for a long time are
a mess physically, and at the same time they need to be healthy and strong
enough to endure the ibogaine. I've had three people out of 270 stop breathing
and need help starting again. I've witnessed one death due to poor screening
while I was a "sitter" during my first year. It's no joke; the body
won't have any withdrawals from ibogaine, but it still has to endure the
detoxification process. Ibogaine works better than anything else, but it's
still hard. There is no easy method to making a full recovery from a long
period of addiction. Toxins must be eliminated, strength has to be regained;
some have lost their spirit and have difficulty reintegrating back into their
bodies. After so many years of spirit separation, some long-time users will
have weak wills evident in their heart rhythms, a soft pulse, a slow pulse or
just weakened bodies. I just can't work with these people unless they really
make a plan of action to support their health before they come here. Sometimes
months of preparation are needed, and even then it may not be enough for me to
feel confident of offering a safe treatment. Medical EKG and blood work are
mandatory before coming, as well as a physical prior to treatment.

I notice two major types of addicts: those who just don't
want to be here on the planet and those who just don't know what else to do, so
they used drugs. I was one of the ones who just didn't know what else to do to
survive. The first type are dangerous—they are already dead. Methadone addicts
for example, people who have been on it for 10 to 20 years; they're just
convinced that there is no hope of ever getting off that stuff from years of
just being shut down. In the beginning I really wanted to help everyone. I saw
people's many different reactions to change. It was painful to see people give
up on themselves. At times we did multiple sessions—sometimes they made it out.
It's hard to decide whether we can really help. I go by my gut and intuition
from meditation. I ask for answers from whatever voice you want to call it, and
I feel it on the inside. I dream a lot about people who are asking for
treatment and I dream a lot about them when they get here. I always do a 2 hour
meditation and nap before treatments and I almost always dream of someone
getting ready for the treatment that evening. It's like I'm connected somehow,
which of course is true, it's just been a new guide to live by.

There have been
times after this nap meditation that I've got important insights or warnings or
protocols for dosage adjustments prior to beginning. I've never had to turn
anyone away that came here, I seem to catch it beforehand. But if I feel it’s
wrong for them I don't hesitate to say, "I'm sorry, I personally can't help,
there may be other clinics that can." I feel very good about knowing who
I can and can't work with. It's gotten easier over the years to be able to
disappoint someone. I felt like I was doing it all the time before, that's been
one of my own biggest healings. I hated to disappoint anyone and a lot of my drug
use stemmed from that. Now I know it's coming from my heart, not my need to
use. I have also held people several days before treatment so they have time to
physically become strong. Alcoholics seem to be the ones that really need a
little time getting stabilized, sometimes a whole week, maybe with a couple of
small doses of ibogaine in the beginning to help feel better. Then we go to
work. We always taste the medicine together, the initiates and staff, and we
try to dial in together and fuse consciousness together. Small tastes of the
medicine help us stay up all night and tuned in together.


You mentioned to me something about a tall African spirit
wearing a top hat that people sometimes see when taking ibogaine in the 1940's
suite of the treatment center. What's the story on this character and why
people keep seeing him? Do you think he is a spirit guide for the Dream House?

 

Some refer to this character as IBOGA. My daughter is very
close to this character and has had much dealing with him. He told her his name
is Darney. He's shown up a few times. He seems to like us a lot and has told us
he really likes the people we bring for him to play with and that he really
does have a good time. He can be very serious too. My personal experience of
the spirit was a tree spirit who was very, very serious with me. But I knew him
from before and was never afraid of him. I do feel he dwells within our group.
Our feeling is that we are pleasing him with our actions and simple physical
things like the house and location have pleased him also. You can feel it a lot
during the sessions, and people sometimes tell us that we are in their dreams
with him. We are not shamans. We are a little limited by not having grown up
within a shamanic tradition. We are working with ibogaine, not iboga, which has
many differences and some greater stability in its effectiveness for what we
are trying to do here. I hope to go to Gabon this year and work with a
traditional healer. I would like to learn more, and become closer to this
spirit and the other spirits that are in the plant.


Finally, do you have any thoughts on plant medicine
in general? It seems that we have many addictions in American culture
which often go unnoticed and are accepted as routine behavior. Do you
feel that
there is a potential for these type of natural healing plants to help us
radically
alter our society away from consumption addiction patterns, towards a
more
sustainable future?

 

Personally, I don't think there's enough time or support for
the U.S.
to pop out of its consumer consciousness. It's like every angle of it is set to
bring humanity down to the next step. It's been hard to see this in dreams with
the medicine—the fact that this has gotten away from us. I feel that we're not
simply a drug treatment center, but a wake-up center for those who really can
still hear, even though they may not know what they're hearing. Plant medicines
are the catalyst for all development in mankind. Everything we've learned has
been through the sacred plants; it’s been going on forever. I know they will
help—they keep trying to reach us. I fear for the pharmaceutical drugs' lack of
a natural connection and what long term effects that will have on us. It's
really dangerous stuff. We may soon experience a new humanity without the
balance of nature, or perhaps we already are for that matter. It really is a
question of whether or not people even want to find out who they are.
Everything is tuned to de-tune, it's everywhere: TV, politics, diet, medicine,
oil dependence, on and on. Can people go back to a simpler life voluntarily?
Who's going to give up what they have? No, I think there's got to be a tipping
point, where we as people just have no other choice but to get simple again and
align with the planet. We will see what happens next in a few years… maybe in
2012?

 

Rocky Caravelli

phone: 503-922-1089

fax 866-826-4485

www.awakeninginthedream.com